On Tuesday, June 30, Autism Speaks participated in an autism-focused Diversity and Inclusion Lunch and Learn for business leaders in the tri-state area. Hosted by Saiber LLC in Florham Park, New Jersey, and designed in partnership with Special Counsel, Rangam Consultants and WebTeam Corp., the event served to introduce the business community to autism employment and TheSpectrumCareers.com.
The program featured an engaging discussion on the ‘business case’ for hiring people with autism, expert tips on how to effectively interview, on-board, and support these employees and success stories from other businesses in the region.
Karen Steinberger, Executive Director of Saiber LLC, offered welcoming remarks and the event kicked off with an introduction by Stephanie Newman, Executive Director of Special Counsel in New Jersey, who spoke about her personal connection to autism and vision for creating better access to employment opportunities for people of all abilities.
She emphasized that there is great potential to be found within the autism community, and given consideration of the staggering unemployment rates, there’s an untapped market for talent.
Autism Speaks Director of Adult Services Dave Kearon spoke about autism and employment, with a focus on how to change one’s business practices in a way that better accommodates the specific needs of employees with autism. He shared how these small efforts can have a huge impact, not only for employees with autism, but for all those who work for the company or organization. Similarly, with efforts to raise awareness on the employer side, comes a chance to increase opportunities across all business sectors.
The team at Rangam Consultants presented the business case for employers, emphasizing that not only is this a matter of social good, but a decision that makes smart economic sense. Vimal Verma reinforced this by sharing that 92% of people view companies who hire individuals with disabilities more favorably.
Nish Parikh offered insights into the on-boarding process and providing supports to employees with autism, and introduced the TheSpectrumCareers.com, an innovative new resource for companies and job seekers alike. On the site, employers can post open job requirements and recruit qualified candidates; those seeking a job can upload video resumes to demonstrate their skills to prospective employers; and service providers can offer their training, coaching and other autism-specific resources to any who are interested.
Gerald Franklin then led a live-demo of the site, sharing insights into how to navigate different features and highlight ease of use. The team’s presentation focused on how tools like this jobs portal can help to ensure the business community is more diverse, inclusive and supportive of all abilities.
Brian Vaught, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Inclusion at ZenithOptimedia, spoke about the company’s commitment to hiring individuals with autism and the successes they’ve had to date. They are continuing to grow these efforts and are working to increase opportunities for employees with autism in the future.
Meredith Beck of Birch Family Services shared her experiences in offering job training and coaching to individuals with autism, with a focus on the positive impact these services can have on employees. She closed by sharing that there’s no ceiling on what young adults with autism can achieve.
An interactive discussion followed the presentations, with participants exploring how the diverse skill sets held by individuals with autism may lead to a great diversity within the roles held in the workplace and how to match this experience with appropriate supports to ensure success. As awareness continues to expand, the group was encouraged to become champions for these efforts within their own companies as a way to sustain momentum and work toward more inclusive and supportive workplace environments.